BARELY a week goes by when this newspaper doesn’t get a complaint from a reader about the extortionate price of fuel in rural Northumberland.
With unleaded hitting £6.40 a gallon and diesel 30p more, the effects have never been so severely felt, not only by the average domestic motorist but also local businesses.
The double-whammy is that many firms can’t simply raise their own prices to cope, notably taxi drivers whose tariffs are controlled by the county council.
But even if they could adjust their charges, it would be almost impossible to keep pace with the incremental creeping rises at the pumps which see a penny or two added almost weekly.
The harsh reality is that unless something is done to alleviate the pressure, some small businesses will be forced to make cuts or limit the extent of their day-to-day trading.
This is not the way to stimulate growth in a country which is suffering the most severe recession in living memory. The Government needs to listen to the rural voice and take action.
One option, already being piloted in the Scottish Highlands, is a 5p tax cut on fuel. There are already calls over in Cumbria for this to be extended to cover the rural north west of England.
Northumberland is no different – it also suffers from sparsity of population, limited public transport links and economic deprivation.
If fuel prices are allowed to continue to rise unabated, the effects on rural life will be dire, both for residents, businesses and whole communities.